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The corruption surrounding the South African government’s push for nuclear power


Part one | Zondo’s nuclear deal revelations,   
https://www.newframe.com/part-one-zondos-nuclear-deal-revelations/

  • By: Neil Over 12 May 2021, In the first of this two-part series, evidence before the state capture inquiry shows how the multibillion-rand deal went ahead despite warnings about the exorbitant cost and danger to health.

It is common knowledge that former president Jacob Zuma fired then minister of finance Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015 because he would not support Zuma’s 9.6GW nuclear deal. But what is less well known are the falsehoods told by the deal’s supporters to coerce reluctant Cabinet ministers – and the country at large – into believing that nuclear power was in South Africa’s best interests. 

Witnesses before the Zondo commission investigating state capture revealed the lies told about nuclear power relating to its alleged safety, its alleged cost and the alleged handling of nuclear waste. Evidence before Judge Raymond Zondo shows that parts of the ANC executive were hell-bent on pursuing the deal, with scant regard for South Africa’s fiscal health, or the health and interests of its residents. 

The Department of Energy presented these falsehoods to Cabinet on 9 December 2015, in a presentation declassified before the Zondo commission. The department was then headed by Tina Joemat-Pettersson, a Zuma loyalist. 

To start, the department led Cabinet to believe that seven other African countries would be operating nuclear power plants within the following 10 to 15 years, five of which were said to be procuring nuclear power by 2020. To date, only one has begun to build a nuclear power station: the controversial El Dabaa plant that Russian state-owned Rosatom is building in Egypt for $30 billion. No other African country has made a commitment to nuclear power.

The department told Cabinet that nuclear power is safe. It said only 60 people died because of the Chernobyl catastrophe in then Soviet Ukraine in 1986, and that no one died because of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan in 2011. The Chernobyl fatalities figure that the department cited was based on the original assessment by the United Nations, which it increased dramatically in 2005 to 4 000 fatalities. But many consider this figure to be a gross underestimate, with some sources claiming that as many as 500 000 will die because of that nuclear disaster (the Russian Academy of Sciences estimates 200 000). 

The Ukrainian government compensates 35 000 spouses of people it has deemed to have died from Chernobyl-related health problems, while non-profit science advocacy organisation the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates the death toll at 27 000. 

We will never know the true fatality total because there has not been a comprehensive, longitudinal examination of the health impacts of the disaster. This means that deaths from cancer in the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are simply recorded as such and are not linked to Chernobyl, despite increasing evidence that long-term exposure to low levels of ionising radiation is more dangerous to human health than previously thought. 

For the same reasons, we will also never know how many people have died or will die from the Fukushima accident because deaths from cancer are not linked to the disaster. There is also a problem in simply recording death rates as this tends to hide chronic illnesses, suffering caused by illnesses and negative impacts on mental health.

In Fukushima, for example, nearly 600 people died after they were evacuated from around the plant owing to what has been described as “evacuation stress”. The stress of forcing thousands of people to abandon their homes, most permanently, is significant. In Japan, 160 000 people were forced to abandon their homes, while 350 000 were evacuated in the Ukraine. 

Hidden costs

The department also brazenly told Cabinet that nuclear waste was not a problem because it “is stored deep underground”. Nowhere is nuclear waste from power generation stored underground. Where it is being attempted, for example in Finland, it is hugely expensive and no one knows yet if it will work. 

Critically, the department told Cabinet that nuclear power was the cheapest option for South Africa. It presented figures stating that the operating costs of nuclear were six times cheaper than those of coal in the country. What the department conveniently forgot to mention was that these costs excluded the enormous cost of construction for Koeberg – Africa’s only nuclear power station on the Western Cape coast, which cost more than planned – and the colossal cost of decommissioning this plant when the time comes.

It did not include the cost of “safely” disposing of nuclear waste. Neither did it include the cost of renewable energy compared with nuclear generation. 

May 13, 2021 - Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa

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